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Director Of Business Operating System: Joe Gelata of Clearpath

Joe Gelata jumped onto Sales Operations Demystified to share his knowledge and experience in Sales Operations.
Joe Gelata has more than 15 years experience spanning sales and operations in the B2B space.
From startups to some of the largest global technology providers, Joe has spent the past 15 years in Sales, Marketing and Operations enabling tech companies to scale by putting data-driven insights into action using the Revenue Operations and Business Operations models.
He currently manages the Business Operating System team at Clearpath Robotics/OTTO Motors which is responsible for sales operations.
Check out all the other episodes of Sales Operations Demystified here.
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Interviewer: Hello, and welcome to another special episode of the Sales Operations Demystified podcast. We’re joined by Joe Gelata. Now, Joe has the extensive experience both in sales and revenue operations. Especially at a company that we’re kind of using through Ebsta and Vidyard. He’s also created something called the Revenue Operations Group, which I want to dig into as well. Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe Gelata: Great. Thanks a lot. I appreciate being here.

Interviewer: We’ll kick off with the first question. How did you initially get into either sales or revenue operations? I’m not actually sure where your entrance was. Did you start with sales operations then move to revenue operations? How did that work?

Joe: I kind of fell into the operations side really. When I first started my career, I started as a BDR. Actually trying make something happen with the business and generated some leads I’d find and whatnot. It was actually at a really cool company, Sybase, which is now part of SAP. Back then, they had a really great engine. It had a really good structure of what I think a lot of companies are trying to build today. You had the advantage of learning in a really nice environment. My path wasn’t sales. I didn’t have the charisma and the personality to do that. [crosstalk]

Interviewer: Oh, Joe, don’t say that. [laughs]

Joe: Definitely in the operations marketing side, kind of at the back office stuff to support the sales reps and whatnot. That’s where I found my self drawn to. I ended up going into marketing there. Then, as I was in marketing, I had a lot of trouble in getting things done. Basically, I discovered the reason was there was never really a lot of operational support. The particular group I was in within Sybase didn’t have an ops team. I was just thrust into that role. I, myself, and one person in finance really took over administration of the CRM. We ended up getting a marketing automation system, which at that time was really early stuff.

At the same time, we had some operations people in Sybase school who were really strong and who I could learn from. That was kind of my first foray into it. Then from there, went into another smaller company. The same thing happened, started off on the marketing side, and then ended up creating a sales and marketing operations role. I said if we should call it revenue operations. This was before it ever was a thing. They said that was the dumbest thing they ever heard. We just called it marketing and sales ops. It definitely worked out great. It really helped align the teams. Then from there, I went on to consulting at first in large enterprise technology companies.

That’s where it was kind of the real push in operations. I was able to see that this gap between sales and marketing was massive. Especially in these big companies can probably get into some cool more stories about that. What came out of that is that when I got burned out by the consultant life, I went and started working with Vidyard as a very small startup. As we grew, first the product and then started a formal marketing with management team. We saw the same thing happening with lack of operational support. My team informally [unintelligible 00:03:22] we grew an operations team. Then eventually got to the point where we had to break out as a formal rev ops team. I mean they let me name the rev ops team. [crosstalk]

Interviewer: Of course, I agree on the rev ops team. When did you initially [inaudible 00:03:37]

Joe: Sorry, what is that?

Interviewer: When did you initially propose the revenue operations name of the team before Vidyard? How many years back?

Joe: Probably going back about 10-12 years now. They thought I was going to finance [unintelligible 00:03:55]. Vidyard seem to make sense.

Interviewer: We could potentially name you the godfather of revenue operations?

Joe: I’ll take it. That might be a big claim.

Interviewer: Awesome. I think most people I speak to they’re in a different role as finance with just admin or with about sales. They seem that they have some kind of proficiency for operations. Then they get [unintelligible 00:04:20] Is it a [unintelligible 00:04:21] like a summer?

Joe: Yes, there’s little push and pull I think personality-wise, just my beliefs and what I enjoy doing allows the software operations. There is always such a strong demand that it was easy to basically do what I wanted and find a place to do whatever I wanted.

Interviewer: Got it. I like to dig a little bit more into the Vidyard journey. You were there for a number of years [unintelligible 00:04:45]. At that starting point, what was a number of resources in revenue operations? For instance, the number of sales reps. Then at the point where you left, what was those numbers as well?

Joe: We had started the company around 10 people. I think we formalize the management team, had about 30 people. I would say maybe about half of a person dedicated to the operation side at that point. At the point where we formally broke it out as its own team. We were around 100 people, may be combined 15 BDO and sales reps. We started the team with at least three people. One on the tools and systems, one on data and analytics, and then myself leading the team and really focused on the overall process.

Interviewer: Got it. What was the text that you were you using as you left?

Joe: Vidyard was the salesforce shop started with part out on the market automation side and then eventually move to [unintelligible 00:05:53]. Obviously, a huge consumer of the Vidyard tool itself and go-video. That was always at the core of the outbound strategy. We dabbled with a couple of different data tools trying to get different leads and enlists for the marketing sales team. SalesLoft is another one we used on the outbound for the account cadences. In the later years got into a lot more BI tools, so full circle insights was something that we plugged into Salesforce to generate data and get us some base reports. Then after that, we took a step further and got [unintelligible 00:06:32] data.

As this BI tool to put over top of that and all of our other systems and start to build some holistic dashboards across the business. These are kind of the main ones that we used.

Interviewer: Good. Now, I want to shift to your managing relation between yourself and the operations team and the actual sales reps. What kind of advice do you have to give to try and get these people who have quite different [unintelligible 00:07:01] to operations people on your side to do the things you want me to do with [unintelligible 00:07:05] process.

Joe: Yes. I think there is probably two ways to approach it. One is you force them to do the things that need to be done, that they don’t want to do. We have to forecast whether they want to put things in the CRM or not. There’s always this balance of you’re getting the basic salary, just update it, but the flip side of that is you have to make it as easy as possible to do that. Remove all barriers action my current role here at ClearPath and auto motors and we’re going through a massive simplification of our entire revenue and bookings generation system.

We’re really just scaling back to CRM and removing all those barriers where in some cases we have to make sacrifices on the data that we gather and what we can use to make decisions, but at the end of the day, if that data isn’t being put in because it’s too difficult, and we’re no further ahead so what we’re really trying to make it as easy as possible for the reps to use the systems and I think just maintaining a close relationship with the reps.

We’ve all got pains and we can relate to those and just building those personal relationships. Obviously gets a little more difficult as the team gets larger. Right now we have the benefit of having enough reps that we all know each other on a name by name basis and we can go out for lunch and things like that, but a year from now at that it certainly won’t be the case, and the key there is to pick the key influencers. Which is actually something we’ve done with this simplification.

Where we’ve added a new tool that we think is going to make it easier to enter data into the CRM. What we’re doing is we’re giving it to one of the most influential reps who has the biggest challenge with this and the theory is if we can get them to use this and be successful with it, and like it, they’re going to be able to spread that word around to the rest of the sales team. Even without just taking it from the

[unintelligible 00:09:01]. It’s coming right from a sales rep who’s is doing it. That’s really important– I think, is that a personal touch–

Interviewer: Yes, that makes sense. Then, the other two different parties that you’ve had to bridge in your career are the sales and the marketing teams. Do you have any advice on navigating the incentives and the goals of both of those?

Joe: Yes, that’s a challenge, I think, as the company gets bigger. In the early days, I’ve always found it’s going to work itself out because those teams are so close, and really you’re just trying to keep the lights on at that point, so no one cares who’s generating leads as long as money is coming. Obviously, as it gets larger, there’s start to try to optimize things and then look at where’s the lead coming from and people start fighting over it. I think from the operation side, and it being a neutral party between both groups, they’re usually both right when they make a claim.

I have to be the referee in many cases and usually propose a new model of, “Maybe it’s not a single lead source that we need to look at, it’s influence on both sides,” and things like that, which creates more work for my team because we have to build those model. At the end of the day, I think, if there’s somebody to focus on bringing them together, you can get a better, more usable outcome, better data for making decisions and try to align that as well.

To do that personalities, I think, [unintelligible 00:10:35] played the biggest role in those gaps. There’s situations and in clear path is one right now where personalities and egos don’t get in the way, so it’s very easy to referee marketing and sales. Whereas in past companies, there’s a personality on one side or both sides, it’s power-hungry and career-hungry than they are worried about the success of the company. Well, to be quite honest, I haven’t figured out how to rescue those teams yet. You really have to spend time on bringing those people together. I think, simple things like just opening up meetings to both sides.

We have front-end business meetings, we don’t have marketing meetings and sales meetings, so when decisions are made on one side, the other party’s there to hear it and understand it. They can raise a hand if there’s a red flag that they see. Otherwise, you’re getting buy-in from both sides at the same time at the point those decisions are being made. Just open communication is key.

Interviewer: Got it. I think having a– What did you call it, the front end teams meeting front-end?

Joe: Yes, we’re in the hardware business here. Usually, we’d call it a revenue operations meeting or a pipeline meeting or something like that, but here we tend to divide the business into the front-end business, marketing, sales of generating customers, and back-end operations and manufacturing of actually delivering the products to the customer. That’s the front ends where sales would sit. [crosstalk]

Interviewer: So that, the revenue team– [crosstalk] With an artificial line drawn between sale and marketing back when business was so different, then now especially in the sales world. We’re coming to realize that actually there is so much blood, more blood than we thought it was than actually having a revenue team [unintelligible 00:12:31]

Joe: I love the concept of a CRO. I think a lot of times it’s really just a VP of sales that has a C title, which is unfortunate, but when you do get someone who truly appreciates marketing and sales and can really be a true CRO, it’s phenomenal to watch. At Vidyard we had Steve Johnson who was COO but essentially was the CRO and bought into both worlds and align things. It was just wonderful to watch. Obviously, they’re seeing success from that.

Interviewer: Was the background primarily in sales or marketing or both?

Joe: Mine was in marketing. Well, a little bit on the BDR side. Then I came in and did much more of the marketing side. Sorry, are you asking about myself or Steve?

Interviewer: Both.

Joe: Steve was kind of all over the place. Probably more sales. When I worked with him, he’d been a COO for so long that I think he was just running everything. He’s focused on success of the company. That was the goal.

Interviewer: Can we talk about the forecasting process for your current role? What your involvement in that and what what is the process look like?

Joe: In forecasting? We do two things. We do short term forecast, where the reps will have a– It’s a committed category essentially or closing category where they can commit deals that have a certain probability of or they feel have a certain probability of closing and there’s a few different categories there. Then we’ll just really look at deal by deal what’s in committed, and what do we think is going to close this quarter. Beyond that, we don’t use that field in that forecasting model.

That’s when we start to break down the averages and whatnot. We’ve got a model where we look at the pipeline or each deal where it’s scheduled to close, how much the deal is for and what stage is that. Each stage will have its own probability of win. Then based on the data scheduled to close, we sum everything up and then we have a push factor. We’ll add up the total weighted pipeline for a particular quarter, and then we might push 40% out or say 30% out to the next quarter, and then 10% out to

Itwo quarters ahead and only to keep 60 within that. We look at both the win rate and the timing of it. Then we use a staggered chart to detract month over month how accurate that forecast has been, and then we can make improvements to it. If we see that conversion rates are the factor at a particular state, we’ll have to fix that particular criteria. Or if we’re pushing our deals at a higher, lower rate then they will modify that. So far, it’s been really useful to break apart that in quarter and out quarter forecasting. To get the total picture, usually, they tend to line up quite well.

Then for us being a hardware manufacturer, they would just look at the dollars, that’s probably less important to us, really. We’re looking at the number of units. We start to break down the major products, how many we’re going to have to make and then that feeds into the whole production. Plan, what do we need to start building things? Unfortunately, you can’t build a robot overnight when the deal closes. As things start to grow for us, we need to be able to manage that scaling back on the manufacturing side.

That critical for us, that’s been a huge eye-opener for me coming into the hardware world, that of SAS, where SAS is over simplifying it. When you press a button, copy software, and then send someone in there and install it. You go through that process, and you can scale that team quite quickly. Whereas on the manufacturing side, you need at a minimum three months lead time, 40 people [unintelligible 00:16:37] can afford to have $20 million of inventory sit on the shelf or get behind on $20 million per product, so that’s been a huge focus for us.

Interviewer: Yes, that must add whole another level of complexity into our sales process. You mentioned a couple there, from your over a decade of experience, I believe. What do you think has been the most insightful metrics to track? Which Salesforce dashboard do you most look forward to refreshing?

Interviewer: As for me, I love the funnel. Looking at every stage of the funnel, getting as granular as we can to look at the conversion rates between each stage. The velocity, I think, is the one that people don’t look at it as much as they should, because it’s hard to track with most CRM. I think those two factors, no conversion rate and velocity, and then obviously layering on the volume of records and deals at each stage was really cool.

We found a really cool tool and video called full circle insights that allowed us to track that in a really granular level. The nice thing about that is you can actually start to split it up. We can look at what is the funnel look like in a certain industry or by a certain lead source, by a certain rap and all kinds of different things, whatever field information we have in our CRM. That’s been really insightful where if something starts to go off the tracks we can quickly narrow in on exactly where that is. Is that a certain BDR team that is having difficulty? Is it inbound outbound?

Things like that. That one has always excited me. I’ve always focused a lot on pipeline growth. The growth rate if we grew 10% last month but we grew again this month but it was only 2%. Is that a leading indicator of some trouble down the road? Then you can start to look at that. That’s always a big one. Here we look at bookings, revenue, and also pre-bookings. As we sign promises of future deals. We contact pre-booking, and then we got to regular bookings. Then we go to manufacturing, hardware business. We can actually recognize that revenue until a later date.

That whole funnel of getting to revenue not just getting to the deal. [unintelligible 00:19:00] typical stuff like acquisition costs, and average deal size, and quarter attainment. Make sure that the reps are being successful. One area where we spend a lot of time looking at is onboarding for the reps. Because we’re growing quite quickly. We want to make sure that that’s optimized. That’s something that went through it the last couple of gigs and Vidyard had the strongest focus on that and looking at those metrics. Looking at how quickly can reps get on the phone talking to customers and start prospecting?

How quickly can they get the first deal? Right now, we’re looking at how quickly they can get to a target average deal size. Not just hitting quota or getting a deal but actually consistently starting to hit that an average deal size. Then the back end we also look a lot of dead reasons so for killing deals. Why are we killing them? How can we feed that information back into the rest of the organization into the product team or marketing team and address the sales and Vidyard team to pivot and figure out the best way to go to market?

Interviewer: That’s [unintelligible 00:20:09] extremely comprehensive review. Final question, actually you can [unintelligible 00:20:14] question. What was the ramp time for a new SDL at Vidyard approximately?

Joe: Takes as long as we expected. I’m trying to think. It’s going back a couple of years now. I feel like we were shooting for two months and it was more like four to six. One interesting thing I’ve found at every company I’ve been at is that the first one to three Vidyards are really good. I think it’s just a mindset coming in and knowing you are the pioneer and you’re figuring out its market digital grind and they figure out a way. After that, once you get into the larger teams. We’ve always seen a dip in conversion rates. I think it’s partially because they don’t have the same mindset coming in. They’re not as gritty and they assume that the trail’s already been blazed and then they expect to be given that path.

I think the other piece of it is that when you’re going from 3 to 5 [unintelligible 00:21:14] you probably aren’t in the stage yet where you put a focus on enablement and you just assume that people will figure stuff out and they obviously don’t. I think that’s the time where you really need to nail down your onboarding process and get things documented and understand the tribal knowledge is not going to scale at that level.

You’ve got to put it on paper if you want people to learn. Last organization, we had a phenomenal enabler person and we were able to really tighten up that ramp time and she was able to develop a really good program, implement a lot of different tactics. I think the key thing she did that I haven’t seen a lot of other people do is that she didn’t focus on delivering information to people, she focused on them consuming it.

As an example, she ran the weekly sales huddle and actually should have broaden it out to the whole organization where marketing wasn’t aware and [unintelligible 00:22:08] reps. It was really a front-end enablement up to sales enablement. If somebody was going to go and present a new product feature or product or something like that, she didn’t just say, “Here’s your 10 minutes, go do your presentation.”

She put you through the wringer and she trained you on how to speak to the reps and spent the time to make sure that that 10 minutes was actually going to deliver value to them. People came to those meetings [unintelligible 00:22:35] Friday afternoon 100% attendance every time because people knew that their time wasn’t going to be wasted, they’re going to walk away with things they needed. That was absolutely critical to tightening the ramp time. Then just that ongoing learning over the long run.

Interviewer: Got it. Final question, who in your career has inspired you the most regarding revenue operations specifically?

Joe: There’s a lot. I think I mentioned before Sybase that are very cool and well-structured engine, especially for, that’s 15 years ago. I think John Shannon, Raj Nathan, were the guys behind that and they had a whole team that worked with them to build that out. This is long before I even got to Sybase. That was really inspiring for me to have that framework and understanding of how that all should fit together.

A lot of those guys are now at what’s left of Blackberry and building that back up. They’re in town here. It’s interesting to watch that a team of ninjas go in and turn these companies around just operationally, by looking at the processes and how everything fits together. When you get into revenue operations specifically, I worked with a couple of really good people early in my career. Kristin Roberts was at Sybase and Jocelyn Brown and everyone who–she was at all quite the time but we partnered with her at Sybase. There now it’s Salesforce now Acadia, but just brilliant minds really got the whole picture and are able to tie it all together which I think is the goal of operations, pull people out of that sales focus and help them understand how that sales piece ties into the whole organization.

Couple of the more sales-focused people like Jeremy who work with me at my last role, he’s at Shopify now, just a brilliant sales mind, then our VP of Sales Marty here at clear path is phenomenal. Probably the only VP of sales that I’ve ever worked with, he knows more about Salesforce than than me for sure. Can go toe to toe with the rest of my team that’s focused on that stuff, and then also understands things get 30 years of sales experience, understands everything. That’s always great to be able to work with a sales VP that understands the operational side just as well as we do. Yes, makes easier. There’s a lot of great people floating around out there that I’ve learned from over the years.

Interviewer: Say that we good. Joe, also the godfather of revenue operations.


The thing that I really liked. As you think and by the end about how operations is the goal is to tie things together and bring people ourselves into almost educate them about how they’re doing ties in with the rest of the business, and your thoughts on sales, bit of marketing or your tips on how to bridge that together into actually having one team, I thought it’s very useful, and then the other one. Yes, your response to my metrics question was incredible I think there are like 30 metrics and so, and I should get back then go through them and will list them out on the page by the view.

Joe: Probably [unintelligible 00:25:53]


Interviewer: Good. Joe, thanks so much for your time, that was incredibly valuable. Thank you.

[00:26:08] [END OF AUDIO]


Joe Gelata

Joe Gelata